How did progressives try to solve problems brought about by changes in America during the Gilded Age?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The Progressives Era tried to deal with some of the problems that existed during the Gilded Age. These problems existed in politics, in the actions of businesses, and in the workplace.

The Progressives wanted to get more people involved in politics. There was a feeling that only select individuals could be influential in politics. There was also concern that money was influencing the decisions made in the United States Senate. The Progressives introduced various political reforms. The initiative allowed common citizens to introduce legislation in government. The direct primary allowed party members to choose the candidates of the political parties. The referendum allowed citizens to vote on proposed ideas. The recall allowed for the removal of elected officials before their term is up if an elected official didn’t act properly or legally. Women were granted the right to vote with the 19th Amendment.

Progressives wanted to control the actions of big businesses. Many lawsuits were initiated to break up big businesses. The Northern Securities Company was an example of this. Laws were passed to control business actions. The Meat Inspection Act was passed to allow for the federal government to inspect and approve meat that would be sold. Too often tainted meat was being sold. The Pure Food and Drug Act made it illegal to falsely label food and medicines. The Federal Trade Commission could order businesses to stop unfair business practices. The Children’s Bureau could look into issues with child labor.

Progressives also wanted to bring about change in the workplace. Many factories used child labor. Laws, such as the Keating-Owen Child Labor Law prevented businesses from hiring kids. The Adamson Act established an eight-hour workday for railroad workers. Laws were passed to make factories safer. Too often, workers were injured on the job. Worker compensation laws were passed during the Progressive Era. Worker safety laws were also passed.

The Progressives worked to bring about many changes to try to correct problems that existed in our society.

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Progressives tried to solve these problems mainly by getting the government to regulate the economy more closely.  For example, one problem from the Gilded Age was that monopolies were gaining too much power over the economy.  Theodore Roosevelt and subsequent progressive presidents tried to solve this problem through antitrust legislation.  Another problem was that working conditions were poor and wages were low.  The progressives tried to solve this problem through governmental regulations as well.  They pushed for such things as minimum wages and bans on child labor.  In these ways and others, the progressives tried to get the government to impose regulations to solve the problems caused by industrialization in the Gilded Age.

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